What you need to know about the 2014-2015 FIA Formula E Championship

Formula E

When it looks like a Formula 1 car and sounds like a hovercraft from a sci-fi movie – or maybe a fighter jet from the spirit world – that’s one of the new Spark-Renault SRT_01E race cars, specially designed for the 2014-2015 FIA Formula E Championship. 

That’s right: FIA, the worldwide governing body for Formula 1 and other motor sports, has set the technical specifications for a 10-city, 10-team, fully-electric car racing tour to kick off in Beijing this September and conclude in June 2015 in London. While we’ve seen electric motorcycles go at it in races like the TT Zero, and electric drag racing in the NEDRA events, Formula E will be the first all-electric global car racing series of its kind. 

As with Formula 1, the Formula E races will be an “open championship,” meaning that manufacturers will be encouraged to build their own cars in order to drive innovation and R&D in the EV space. However, for the first year of Formula E, all 10 race teams will use the same base car, the single-seat Spark-Renault SRT_01E.

While Spark Racing Technology designed and built the SRT_01E, its components come from a consortium effort. Italian firm Dallara constructed the car’s aerodynamic carbon fiber and aluminum chassis, and McLaren Electronics Systems provided the electric motor and electronics. Finally, Williams Advanced Engineering designed the 200 kW battery and its management system. 

It all adds up to a car that was 10 months in the making when it debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show last September. Estimates mark the SRT_01E for 0-100km in 3 seconds, and an FIA-limited estimated top speed of 225 km/h. In case race fans are worried there won’t be any aggressive sounds spewing from the SRT_01E, they can be assured that the fusion of the electric drivetrain, aero package, and tires on the pavement combine to issue a screaming, futuristic whir in excess of 80 dB, compared to the 70 dB of an average gas road car. 

In accordance with FIA’s Formula E rules, a one-hour practice session, qualifying session, and the race will all occur on the same day. During practice and qualifying, the SRT_01E’s full 200 kW (270 bhp) power will be available. However, during the race, the cars will be limited to a 133 kW (180 bhp) power-saving mode, with a 67 kW “push-to-pass” temporary boost system. 

Each team will have two drivers, and FIA mandates two pit stops during each race. For the pit stops, drivers will swap out entire cars, rather than having tire changes, battery pack changes, etc. So there will be a total of 42 SRT_01E cars for the series – the remaining two cars ostensibly serving as backups. 

In late December, EV maker Venturi Automobiles became the tenth and final team to enter the Formula E Championship when the company and actor Leonardo DiCaprio joined forces to co-found the new Venturi Grand Prix Formula E team. There’s no word yet whether DiCaprio will continue the tradition of celebrities dabbling in racing as a driver, but Venturi rounds out a field that includes Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing, Audi Sport ABT, Dragon Racing, Andretti Autosport and Drayson Racing.

When Formula E rolls into its scheduled cities, the likes of which include Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Monte Carlo, Miami, and Los Angeles, FIA aims to create a cultural event based on the convergence of technology, sport, entertainment and sustainability. Concerts will follow each race, and FIA plans on the races being both televised and streamed online. Measures like the one-day format and the standardized car were meant to reduce impact on the host cities and keep costs low for the teams during the inaugural series.

 

This article originally appeared in Charged Issue 11 – DEC 2013

  • freedomev

    Why would anyone make a racing EV with the aero/CD of a truck!!
    With batteries correctly place low center handling can be great without the massive wings, etc of this piece of bad engineering and the drag they make.

    • ctromley

      Racing is all about finding PRECISELY the right balance. It does not matter what powers the car. All that matters is that you complete the allotted number of laps as fast as possible within the racing format.

      Less wing means you might go farther before stopping, or faster on the straights, or a little of both – but you will be slower in the turns. And there are a lot of turns. It’s all about balance.

      FIA could change the format and emphasize efficiency by limiting wing area, but that would just feed the anti-EV crowd. It would imply EVs are not up to “real” racing like the gas-powered racers.

      FIA’s interest is not racing, it is in keeping the fans interested in racing to maximize revenues. If you think this is bad, look at NASCAR. That’s not racing, it’s a racing-themed reality show circus – the WWF on wheels.

      FIA is trying this out. I give them a lot of credit for putting it together. There will certainly be tweaks, all with the goal of maximizing interest. That can only be a good thing for the adoption of EVs as general transportation.

      • freedomev

        It was the shape of them, not the wings which done right don’t increase drag much and well worth it. My goal is faster, longer on the same power, not economy .
        In fact many ways to increase cornering without increasing straight away drag. The examples are not among them.
        But if your EV racing car can’t do enough laps, go faster because of high aero drag, tips the balance in a cleaner, more aero shape. Or powered ground effects.
        I bet you put a full aero body over the wheels Can-Am style with front and rear wings would beat the example easily from higher top speed and getting there faster while not losing in the turns.
        BTW on my lightweight EV’s with their CG at 11” even with just 2 front, 1 rear wheels handling is so good it scares me the side forces are so high. It never had the least rolling moment and seemed the wheels would break off before rolling from the lower than the axle CG.
        My new one is being designed to take this handling all the way so I can do autocross. EV’s with their low CG’s have proved very good there.
        Want to see how good a 2 front wheel low CG 3wh vehicle can be, look up the TriHawk Harley bought but never produced. Car+Driver IIRC has a great test drive of it.

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